June 27, 2006

NYT freak copy

My home-delivered copy of NYT on Sunday had a thick grey strip running right down Page 10 of the Business Section, blacking out columns of classifieds. Was the freak page a piece of avant-garde art or an act of vandalism by a graffiti artist at work during the paper's print-run? Maybe none of the above. Maybe it's oversight on the part of the production staff. Whatever the case, the freak copy, I thought, was a collector's item. And I have saved it to be shown to friends and media buffs in Mysore. If only to show that things can go wrong, even at NYT.

My Google search of the company history, to check for any record of such botch-up, revealed a load of other trivia in the life of NYT since it was first published as the New-York Daily Times on Sept.1851. The thing about the paper is that it is rich not only in reading material but also in ruddi value (not in the US). The Sunday paper on Sept.13, 1987 reportedly weighed 12 pounds, containing 1,612 pages. The largest week-day edition was printed on April 19, 2000, with 174 pages.

The NYT masthead slogan - 'All the News That's Fit to Print' - first appeared on Oct.25, 1896, on the editorial page. It was moved to Page One, on Feb.10, 1897.

June 20, 2006

It isn’t that obvious to me, Dr Shenoy

Regarding GVK's idea of getting Mysoreans involved in civic problems through the medium of internet, I have to state the obvious that it is a non starter. First, there is a problem of few having the internet connection. And of those who have it, 90% are likely to be too "busy" to worry about the civic problems.

This is what Dr Bhamy Shenoy wrote in response to my post – Blog that empowers people. His premise may be right – not many in Mysore have the Internet access; and most of those who do, do not use it for much else other than to check/send e-mail. Assuming that we have around 10,000 Internet-connected residents in Mysore; and that 90 percent of them use it only for personal communication, we are looking at 1,000 odd Internet users who can potentially be engaged in interaction on issues of public concern.

MyMysore.com would be a thriving interactive forum, even if half their number can be initiated into ways of posting messages on the web and reacting to other people’s posts. Blogging is another way in which one can share one’s experience and put forward one’s point of view. At mymysore.com we have initiated into blogging a few public-spirited Mysoreans. It was a few months back that I phoned Capt. Anup Murthy, after reading his spirited letter-to-editor in Star of Mysore. He said he didn’t know much about blogging, but was willing to give it a shot.

I got in touch with Mr Vijendra Rao on reading about his website in a newspaper. He didn’t require my pep-talk on blogging. Mr Rao is a multi-blog person. More recently, we heard from Ms Vidya Nagaraj who stumbled on our site while on a web search for masale-puri recipe. We may not have helped her with the recipe, but our interactive enthusiasm for her quest touched her. She readily agreed to blog for us from her remote Japan town. Dr. Javeed Nayeem was another person I persuaded to blog for us after reading his column at Star of Mysore (what would I do without it?). The blogs that evoke comments are the ones that put across a point of view that is interesting, often informative, occasionally, controversial; and always authentic.

What has all this got to do with Dr.Shenoy’s question about involving people in civic problems through the Internet? Maybe the bloggers do not always write about civic issues (would be a bore, if they do), but they blog about their own things that interest readers; and many of them may be persuaded to interact on issues raised in the website discussion forum.

June 18, 2006

Healthcare outsourcing

Head of cardiology at a corporate hospital in Chennai told me once (this was years ago) that they needed to do 12 surgeries a day to be able to maintain three operation theatres, meet loan repayment schedule on equipment, and fulfill dividend expectations of shareholders. He was not merely a reputed cardiac surgeon, but also a board member – ‘I’ve to take care of the shareholders’ interests’.

Specialty hospitals have emerged good business, a sure-fire foreign exchange earners and have made India a destination for healthcare outsourcing. We hear hospital management circles talking of ‘medical tourism’, a term I despise. Overseas visitors in need of surgery and their concerned companions do not exactly fit the definition of ‘tourists’, a word I would normally associate with vacationers and pleasure-seekers. Travelling to get a heart bypass can’t be much fun. Most of those making the trip to India are folks who can’t afford it in their own country. Heart surgery that costs $200,000 in the US can be done in India for $10,000.

Hip resurfacing costs in Mumbai $6,000 while the same surgical procedure done in the US would set you back by $25,000. If you don’t have insurance cover in the US, and can’t raise that kind of money, even the Lord would be reluctant to help. I once met a lady at a Phoenix soup kitchen whose family became homeless, because her husband got pneumonia. His insurance cover had lapsed. And they had to sell their house to pay hospital bills. It was a matter of $11,000.

Thousands of US patients are said to be opting India as healthcare alternative, to take advantage of the cut-rate heart surgery, gastric bypass and hysterectomies. Economics professor Milica Bookman, of Philadelphia St. Joseph’s University, is quoted in People magazine as saying, “from what we’re hearing, the quality of care is certainly as good as what you find in an American hospital”. The professor is writing a book on medical outsourcing.

A school bus driver in Lakeville, Minn., who had hip resurfacing done in Mumbai has set up a website to share her experience and offer guidance to those looking at healthcare options in India.

June 12, 2006

Worth(lessness) of an MBA

There is hardly any university worth the name that doesn’t offer an MBA programme. With increasing number of graduates seeking admission there is growing skepticism about the worth of an MBA, that is generally perceived as the most versatile degree that opens many doors of employment. A management professor at McGill, Montreal, Henry Mintzberg, tracked the performance of 19 academically good students of the Harvard Business School (the class of 1990) some 13 years after they graduated (in 2003).

He came up with the conclusion that 10 of the 19 considered themselves “utter failures”, another four rated their performance as “very questionable”, and only five out of the lot did well. The yardstick of success comprised factors such as 1) personal satisfaction with one’s job 2) the respect of one’s peers; and 3) holding a top post – CEO, CFO – at a corporation. Oddly, salary level expectations ranked lower in order of importance; and some MBAs included in their mix of success priorities a capability to make a difference to society.

Prof. Mintzberg is cited in NYT as saying that managers can’t be created in classrooms. If b-schools give people who aren’t management material the impression that they can be turned into managers, they create hubris.

June 4, 2006

We’ve too few pigs, too many people

Reynolds is a small town in Indiana where people are outnumbered by pigs, in a ratio of 1: 300. Folks there are so well endowed with cows and pigs that they have decided to go for bio-renewable energy in a big way; generate electricity from animal waste and produce natural gas with the methane from the wastes of pigs, cows, and people.

Reynolds has been declared the first bio-town in the US that seeks to be come zero-dependant on conventional energy fuel. An old resident, who blames the rise fuel prices on Arab nations, is quoted in NYT as saying they needed to be shown that ‘we can do it (find our own energy), and we don’t need them’.This Indiana town has 533 residents, and it can count on adequate supply of bio-waste from 150,000 pigs and a comparable number of cows to meet all its energy needs.

I can’t see Mysore drawing power from pigs. We don’t have that many of them. At the last count they numbered around 18,000 in the entire Mysore town. Which makes for a dismal pig-people ratio. Our problem: we have too few pigs; and too many people.